By Sonja Hegman
Your author platform is the single most important thing you can create for yourself. And I’m not kidding when I write this: You must start promoting at least a year ahead of your book’s release. This might sound ridiculous, but starting the buzz early will give you a better shot of getting onto best seller lists in your opening week.
What is an author platform? It’s that thing you create to generate buzz for you and your awesome book. Much like a brand, it takes time to build up that buzz. Think of yourself as a brand. You can’t expect to sell hundreds of books your first week if no one has an inkling of who you are. I’ve been around as a writer for a long time, but even I didn’t give myself enough of a head start. I thought my first book would sell like hotcakes during its first month because 1) the title was magnificent and 2) any writer worth a darn would care about the subject matter. Not so. The buzz didn’t start until about six months after its release.
Once your book is written you must become a full-time marketer and sales person. No one else is going to do this for you, not even your publisher. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble out there. Traditional publishers might write a press release for you, but other than that you have to be on Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads generating sales for yourself. If you have the money, you can always hire someone (like me) to perform these tasks for you, but when you’re first starting, you’ll most likely be on your own. This is overwhelming. I won’t lie. I work in social media so translating that knowledge over to my book sales wasn’t too difficult. But when I received my first royalty check, I was anything but impressed. I’d busted my ass for months and felt I had nothing to show for it. So, what did I do? I kept pushing and things finally started to happen.
For Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin, I began heavy promotion in July for my book’s October release. Not even close to enough time to generate a real conversation. It took until April (nine months after I first started to promote and six months after my book’s release) for things to finally start happening with sales. So, how does one begin to create their author platform? It’s not as overwhelming as you might think as long as you give yourself the gift of time.
In a perfect world, this is how I should have laid out the promotion for Trials:
- 1 year before: Start a Twitter chat based on the book called #WritersChatStew. Build a tribe of people who will inevitably buy in the first week and write wonderfully awesome reviews. Also, start blogging about principles from the book.
- 9 months before: Start guest posting on as many sites as possible. Continue this up through, and beyond, the release date.
- 6 months before: Press materials: Press kit that includes a press release, author bio/background, author photo, and sample questions. (I created this after my book released.) Book radio/podcast interviews from now up through and beyond the release date.
- 3 months before: Post book trailer to YouTube.
You must have an online presence to succeed as a writer today. A basic online platform includes:
- Social media (Twitter and Facebook)
- Website (this can be yourname.com or the title of your book)
- A blog (this can include excerpts from your book)
- Sales (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.)
A more advanced platform would include these along with other such as Google+, Goodreads, LinkedIn, YouTube, advertising, an email newsletter and others.
Your blog is the core
Your blog is going to be your best friend when you start promoting. Why? Well, every time you write a blog post, you can post it to all of your social media channels. In effect, people will go to your website, read the post and probably look around a bit. On this blog you’ll have links to all of your social media profiles and your book’s link on Amazon along with anywhere else it’s for sale.
Now, your blog and your website can be one in the same. If you can’t afford to hire someone to design a kick-ass website for you, start with a free blog on Blogger or WordPress. This blog can always be integrated into a more formal website later.
Blogger is my platform of choice because it allows the blogger to buy a personalized URL. For example, I created sonjahegman.blogspot.com on Blogger, then bought the URL sonjahegman.com. It’s very easy to setup and is only $10 for one year, which includes hosting on Blogger. It’s a great option when you’re first starting out.
What do you write about in this blog? Anything you want. Because I created a Twitter chat to promote my first book, I opted to create a separate site just for that, which is writerschatstew.com. All topics in this blog relate back to principles from Trials. If you’re writing a how-to book this is fine. What about fiction? Write about your characters. What are their motives? Post excerpts to give readers a taste and to generate buzz. Think about how you can intrigue potential readers/buyers. Write in the voice of your character. One of my clients writes spy novels. On Twitter, I pretend to be the character, writing in the character’s voice and pretending that James Bond is the little brother the character never had nor wanted. Creativity is the key.
Sonja Hegman is the author of Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin. Her second book, Moving at the Speed of Twitter How Authors Can Build a Social Media Platform to Sell More Books, will be published in 2013. You can find her tweeting on Twitter most days @ChiefWordsmith.
Image courtesy of Chris Greene.